Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Best Actor 1981

And the Nominees Were:

Dudley Moore in Arthur

Warren Beatty in Reds

Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond

Paul Newman in Absence of Malice 

Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City

Who do you pick and predict?

Best Actor 1998: Results

5. Robeto Benigni in Life is Beautiful- Well he certainly smiles a lot and clowns around but that is basically all he does.
4. Nick Nolte in Affliction- Nick Nolte never really becomes that effective in his role here, but I still think he was fine.
3. Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan- Tom Hanks stays as a man to follow through the war epic of a film, and finds time to develop his character despite the nature of the film.
2. Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters- McKellen gives a very effective, and believable performance as James Whale, suggesting all of his complicated past, and his current predicaments exceedingly well.
1. Edward Norton in American History X- Edward Norton is effective in portraying the intensity of his character's hatred but also the poignancy in his reformation.

Best Actor 1998: Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan

Tom Hanks received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Capt. John Miller in Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan certainly is well made in some aspects, most certainly, but I feel the writing fails to be really all that great. Although when it originally came out it was praised for a lack of cliche, and although John Wayne is not the leader, the crew is just as cliched in a lot of ways than the ones in some of his movies that I have seen. There is the straight laced religious sniper, the crusty right hand man, the cynical guy, the wet behind the ears guy, the cannon fodder, or basically the one dimensional guy besides a token scene or one aspect of the character. 

 Tom Hanks is the leader of the small group of men searching for Private Ryan to bring him home. Hanks works as the normal man in an extreme situation who can be followed throughout the film. He maintains presence in the film despite the fact that it is a big war movie, and an ensemble piece in some ways. He does work as the common man well, and can be fairly well identified with. I never fully believed Tom Hanks as a World War II solider, but that is hardly his fault, and his performance is good enough to get around this. He keeps realism in the film, and despite Miller being a standard character in a few ways Hanks still allows room for development.

Much of his performance are reactions though, whether it is to the battles he is in, to what he sees, reaction to his men, or something else. Hanks' reactions are always authentic, and always properly reinforce the feelings of the scenes he is in. Hanks is able to find the right tone for the scenes, and even can handle the scenes of a little humor well without spoil the tone of the film by ever seeming to actory in his performance. Despite many of his scenes being mostly functional such as giving orders or being in the action, or reactionary Hanks still finds moments in which he shows Miller's development and complexity. He never really says everything about Miller but he suggests incredibly well, especially when speaking of the man he has possibly saved or his quiet reactions to the deaths of his men.

The other main aspect of Miller that Hanks does a good job handling is his leadership. He is not a loud or imposing leader who calls out his orders, rather a more quiet man who is quiet in his control and motivation of his troops through his own respect he sort of earns. Hanks seems believable as a leader, and as a quiet leader like this. A leader who resolves his issues quietly. I would say though when he is doing a few scenes of the large command he is less believable. Especially at the end when he organizes the plan, I just did not at all fully believe his performance there or a few other scenes where he perhaps could have used just a little strong command. Still though a very good performance, still sticks out in a film of this type, and fulfills his role for the most part and adds more when he can.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Best Actor 1998: Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful

Roberto Benigni won an Oscar from his only acting nomination for portraying Guido Orefice in Life is Beautiful.

It is hard to know what quite to make out of this film, comedy simply does not seem to be the right tone for a holocaust movie especially one that takes itself somewhat seriously. I'd say it would have to be like a pitch black comedy of sorts like Seven Beauties to work.

Who was the first actor to win in this category for a foreign language performance, was it Giancarlo Giannini's brilliant performance in Seven Beauties, or perhaps one of Marcello Mastroianni's performances, no not one of those who could have been incredibly deserving no the first was for Benigni.

There is not that much to his performance really. All he really does is smile, and clown around throughout the film, with the occasional sad face. He really just keeps smiling throughout doing his clown act, and that is it no matter what the situation is. I understand that this is what Guido's character is suppose to be, but even if that seems right for the character it does not make his performance here an impressive one.

Now after the fact that he does the same thing over and over again,  does this thing that he does over and over again work? Well not for me really. I never found him to be all that funny or charming. I will grant him that he tries very hard to get a laugh, and to seem really really charming but I never really found him to be. He did not grow on me in the least, and his performance does not make his own film work either, despite being essential for it to. He never made the story convincing for me even in a fantastical sort of way, his performance simply failed to work.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Best Actor 1998: Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Neo Nazi Derek Vinyard in American History X.

American History X is an effective enough film about racism although there are few problematic elements within its structure.

The film is not in chronologically told film but we see early scenes before Derek is turned either way. He firsts listens to some extreme remarks by his father, and then we later see him in his grief after the killing of his father. Norton is decent enough in portraying the natural reactions of Derek in both circumstances but these scenes are too simplistic for him to really give a us a pinpoint on the cause of Derek's path to being a Neo-Nazi.

Derek instantly becomes an integral member of a local groups of Neo-Nazi white supremacists. Norton terrific in a very chilling way in these scenes. He is oddly charismatic while he makes his racist remarks. Norton shows the right oddly misplaced passion in these scenes, that makes these scenes especially disconcerting. Norton shows that Derek is not a dumb guy really, and that even a smart person can simply be lead this way. Norton makes Derek's hatred very realistic and that is pivotal for the film. He never seems to be acting the racism but rather that it is simply part of Derek's world view.

Two scenes in particular are especially made very effective due to Norton. The first when he gets in to an argument with his family over his views, and fights with everyone. The strongest moment though is when he shows some regret to his mother and sister of the violent way he reacted. Norton correctly shows here that although Derek is a racist, he still yet is a human. The other scene though is his scene where he kill two black men who break into his car. Norton is chilling here showing Derek's hate in its purest form. His smile at the very end of the scene is especially effective. Norton portrays the true viciousness of Derek in this state and the real nature of his hatred in this moment.

Derek is sent to prison after his murders, and meets up with other supremacists inside the prison. Norton performance here is essential to the film, and an extreme challenge. He at first still acts like he has before, but becomes disillusioned with his cohorts due to their lack of beliefs. He is then beaten and raped by them for leaving their group, and for befriending a black inmate. Norton transformation is effective as he acts his cocky self at the beginning of his prison, but starts to see his hate as pointless as incorrect. A lesser part of his performance is in his friendship with a black inmate which is probably a bit too simplistic in terms of its writing. Norton can't quite sell this aspect of it, the abuse of the others turning him is more believable, as this side shows Derek basically losing his hatred due to finding the other inmate being funny. He's never bad, but he can't fully overcome the materials limits.

After getting out prison Derek has become just about completely reformed, now wishing to help his struggling family and set straight his Neo Nazi younger brother (Edward Furlong). Derek is now a man who regrets his actions, and tries his best to rectify them. His portrait of Derek is honest and absolutely convincing as he confronts his brother and his former friends over their racism. He handles all of these scenes with the the right poignancy. It is fascinating how Norton can make the transition from a chilling hate filled character to a honest good man. Norton also is quite heartbreaking at the tragic ending of thee film. Although moments of the transition are weakened by the writing involved with the film the two sides of the performance Norton does pull of incredibly well.

Best Actor 1998: Nick Nolte in Affliction

Nick Nolte received his second Oscar nomination for portraying small town cop Wade Whitehouse in Affliction.

Affliction is a rather unusual film in a few ways such as having a plot that is a purposeful fake out, but it also is standard in many ways such as several fairly simple characters. Overall it simply did not work for me.

I'll again admit I have never found Nolte to be all that interesting of an actor. I particularly do not find his abilities as a leading man like in the Prince of Tides, luckily though Wade Whitehouse is not at all a leading man character. Wade is a town cop who is poorly respected by just about everyone, and is disliked almost in the same way. Nolte does do a good job a be appropriately pathetic as Wade. His inability to fulfill the smallest tasks of his job as a cop and as a father, is made proper do to Nolte lack of command, and lack of self-confidence. Everything about Wade lacks confidence, and I will say that Nolte does a good job of that, even though I will not say that seems like the biggest challenge.

Wade is a troubled man with a troubled past, and present. His past involving his abuse from his father (James Coburn), and the present involving the sudden death of his mother, a sever toothache, and a theory of his that a local hunting accident was not accident. Nolte gives fine performance showing the frustrations of Wade, along with his possible paranoia due to his abuse as a child. His slow degeneration throughout the film is fairly well handled by Nolte, as he grows more and more frustrated and paranoid.I also like how Nolte shows how Wade grows a little more strength despite the strength being misplaced in a incorrect idea.

I think Nolte does reach the end of the character's rope fairly well, and does give a completely respectable performance. I will say still that I do think the performance could perhaps have been better. Although I think he is realistic and fairly effective, there still seemed to be something stopping him from really hitting the right note with his performance. I cannot point to what exactly, but his performance never truly effected me. Still I will admit being for some reason extra hard on Nolte, since if he did achieve even more with this performance it would have been a truly great one. Nonetheless though it is a good one.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Best Actor 1998: Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters

Ian McKellen received his first Oscar nomination for portraying homosexual movie director James Whale in Gods and Monsters.

Gods and Monsters is certainly an interesting movie. I am not sure though if it really succeeds in terms of the development of its themes and ideas.

Ian Mckellen portrays James Whale throughout the film seemingly without challenge. He shows an instant ease with the role instantly. He instantly is comfortable in the role from the first moment he is on the screen. This relaxation in this role is essential for its effectiveness. Whale is a homosexual who still in fact tries to attempt being active, even if his attempts are many times covert, in a slight way to get some sort of thrill for himself. This is some ways an important aspect of this character, which McKellen never exploits in his performance, but rather makes it the natural way Whale is and wants to be. This lusting from Whale is not overdone to be overly creepy, nor is it underdone to seem some overly romantic idea, instead McKellen find the right realistic tone which works well.

Another aspect of Whale is his enormous past, both his painful memories of his wartime, and childhood experiences, but also that of his more glorious days as a successful film artist. McKellen again excels in his scenes showing Whale's love for his art and his artistry. He finds the perfect note to convey this though, since Whale does not simply love his whole artistry. He shows a distinct hatred for the treatment of some of his work, and how his film making ended. Also a distaste for only being remembered for his monster pictures. He though still shows a true admiration for what he has done, and shows a sense of an accomplishment of his work. McKellen balances these feelings well, also Whale as he speaks of these films states everything as the real director of the film, which McKellen brings the right vivid quality to.

His most dramatic moments are when Whale thinks about his past. McKellen really excels here because the past is shown to us, therefore he could have simply spoke of it and done nothing else but McKellen shows Whale own feelings on the matters mostly without words. He conveys both the happiness in his past with the pain of his losses exceedingly well. McKellen tells of these stories always with the right passive passion in a way that rings true to the character. McKellen brings out all his past, his current lusts, and pains the most in his final moments. The final scene where he tries to bring his gardener Clay Boone (Brendan Frasier) to kill him by sexually advancing on him. McKellen is terrific in this penultimate scene, mixing the right intensity in his attempts to enrage the man to killing, along with showing his past once more, and his current pain he wants to end. It is a odd scenes in many ways but McKellen stays realistic and effective in this scene just as he is throughout the film.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Best Actor 1998

And the Nominees Were:

Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters

Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan

Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful

Edward Norton in American History X

Nick Nolte in Affliction

Who do you predict, and pick?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Best Actor 1937: Results

5. Spencer Tracy in Captain Courageous- Tracy I just think is completely unbelievable in this role, I never was convinced by his accent or his performance.
4. Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola- Muni does do some overacting in some scenes, and Zola is portrayed rather simply in the film itself. Still though he handles the speeches of Zola pretty well, and his changes as Zola ages are very well done.
3. Charles Boyer in Conquest- Boyer is perfectly cast as Napoleon, but unfortunately napoleon is portrayed incredibly inconsistently. Still Boyer does have some strong moments, and shows if the film had been better than he probably could have been great.
2. Fredric March in A Star is Born- Like Boyer I do feel March is hurt a little by the film, but he still gives a very charming performance as Norman Maine. Then as Norman's stardom falls he gives a pretty effective portrait of a man who continues to drift downward, despite the fact the film rushes this far too much.
1. Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall- Montgomery is absolutely brilliant in his performance here. He is both charming and incredibly chilling. His performance is truly great, giving the right hints of the true nature of the character throughout, and mixes his charm with his psychotic nature incredibly well. And his final look at himself in the mirror that is just a truly outstanding scene.
Deserving Performances:
Cary Grant in The Awful Truth
Stan Laurel in Way Out West
Oliver Hardy in Way Out West

Best Actor 1937: Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola

Paul Muni received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying French writer Emile Zola in The Life of Emile Zola.

The Life Emile Zola is not a great movie by any means, and it takes a very long time to get going. I feel it does when it reaches the Dreyfus affair but it should probably have just been called the Dreyfus Affair with Zola being an important character. I think that would have made a better film.

Muni here plays a character who is almost always in the right and likes to tell other people how they are wrong, all through his life. Muni role is simple in this way, as Zola is rarely conflicted and almost always right. I will say an actor can actually excel in roles like these like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird, but Muni does not quite excel. He moves along throughout the film with a fine adequate performance, even though at times he certainly does overact especially in the opening scene. He throws up his arms and makes some over the top faces for no real reason. He does these at times throughout his performance they are never that distracting but always stick out in a bad way.

He does do something well in this film and that is quite well. He ages incredibly well in this film. I really believed him as the elderly Zola, and thought he did a good job doing the mannerism of older age without over doing it. The other thing he does well enough are his speeches. I will say some he is a little annoying, but he is always properly passionate in the role. His best speech is his one to the Jury where he wants proper justice. He delivers this speech particularly well and certainly does a good job of it. His performance works well for the film, and I think he was right for the part. I would say I could have done without his overacting at times, but still he delivered the "goods" so to speak when he had to in this performance.

Best Actor 1937: Fredric March in A Star is Born

Fredric March received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Maine in A Star is Born.

The original Star is Born really does not work all too well especially when you have seen the 1954 version which is better in just about every single way. This version seems rushed, and the whole story of Vicki Lester does not work particularly well, since in this version it seems her success really is entirely because of Norman Maine.

Norman Maine actually takes little bit to show up and does not appear until being bothered by paparazzi in an opera house and violently reacting toward them bothering him. Later he meets Vicki, and that get on famously as he moves to have her become a star. March is just fine in these early scenes he has the right amount of charm as Maine in these early scenes, along with adding a little humor when he can as well.

His chemistry with Janet Gaynor as Vicki is not anything all that special unfortunately even though I feel that is because of Gaynor more than March. March tries his best to be charming and romantic scenes in their scenes together, and I think he does a good job. The problem though is Gaynor always stays basically the same throughout her performance, and really does not adjust well along with March, to really be convincing in their romantic scenes. March I do think is charming in these scenes but the scenes remain unspectacular due to Gaynor.

One aspect of Maine that is very underdeveloped is Maine's alcoholism. In the 1954 there is always an inkling of  it with Maine at almost all times. Here it is not consistent, March does not make it so nor does the film. His whole presentation of Maine's alcoholism is not perfect because the film is incredibly inconsistent. It never really shows it to be that much of a problem for him, until the plot requires that it be.

I will say March is fine when showing the alcoholism or his problems involving this problem but unfortunately this whole aspect of the film is poorly done because it is not given enough time, and again it is not consistent. For example in the 1954 his drunken tirade at the Oscars is well lead to and well handled, in this version it sort of comes out of nowhere, and the actual occurrence of the scene seems strange. March handles it well, but the film certainly holds him back, from giving a great performance. Like Boyer's performance from this year there are certainly good examples of the performance throughout the film especially his final scene, but still the film has a character written fairly poorly disabling the actor to be truly effective. I moved up to a 4 because he is still very charming, and I felt he deserved more credit for what he did well.

Best Actor 1937: Charles Boyer in Conquest

Charles Boyer received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Napoleon Bonaparte in Conquest.

Conquest simply does not work because the film does not set its tone well nor does really know what it is trying to do. It is the bad type of biography picture because it does not lay out a time frame, and it just seems to go nowhere special. Also Greta Garbo is surprisingly unspectacular in this film, and is actually thoroughly up shown by her male co-star.

Charles Boyer I must first say that he seems the perfect choice to play Napoleon Bonaparte. He just seems to fit that part perfectly and is technically perfect cast as him. I really am rather annoyed by this film actually, because it seems Boyer could have been a fantastic Napoleon in another film, but unfortunately he is held back by this version of Napoleon. Napoleon is portrayed in such a artificial way, and baseless fashion that no character development can really be achieved by Boyer. It is not that his character is inconsistent just the script never really gets inside Napoleon very well, it always stays at an odd distance that is a huge failure of the film.

I will say the way Boyer presents Napoleon in the way he talks and walks is well handled. I believed him as Napoleon, as he has the right command and control in the part. Also something else I was glad to see was that Boyer plays him with a little light humor, which actually does work well. I think his best scene and the best scene in the film is when he plays cards with an old woman who does not know who he is and is not aware of who he is either. It certainly is a funny scene do to Boyer's comedic timing, unfortunately this is the only scene like this and does not really correspond with the rest of the film. I think possibly if it had been a light comedic romantic portrayal of Napoleon it could have worked but alas.

His scenes with Garbo are not all that special due to the script, even though I think Boyer does a fine job nonetheless. He is properly romantic in his sort of odd Boyer sort of way that I think does work well for Napoleon. I do not think Garbo actually reciprocates that well, but Boyer still remains good. Napoleon is incredibly random character here since the movie is so random. Boyer tries to do what he can to be consistent but the movie is just too poorly directed. Since it lacks a focus Boyer has nothing to focus on but when he has the chance to shine he actually does, such as a brief scene with a dying soldier, in which Boyer is very effective. His final scenes are also fine but Boyer cannot make up for the bad writing. This simply is a performance that could have been great with better material, but instead is just good.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Best Actor 1937: Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall

Robert Montgomery received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Danny in Night Must Fall.

Night Must Fall is an effective thriller, not quite perfect because most of the characters pale in comparison to the lead nominated character, but still the film is very strong.


I will obviously say right now this is a spoiler filled review, since it is necessary to tell of the depth of Montgomery's performance. I was actually not knowing what to expect from Montgomery this time since his other nominated performance I was not very impressed by, but I pleasantly found out Montgomery has the two most different nominated performances in Oscar history I believe. Different in more than on way, since one character is a nice guy boxer, and this one is a murderous psychopath. I was also surprised to see such a completely amoral character nominated this early in terms of Oscar years. Although I assume he must have had absolutely no chance of winning because of this.

When Danny first arrives, Montgomery creates a truly pitch perfect performance from the get go. His voice he uses for Danny is one feature that is brilliant. His light Irish is terrific, because it is such a soft voice, suggesting a very soft man which he is not. As Danny he brilliantly is charming in his early scenes as he charms his future employer, and others. His smile, and that little swagger he as is just perfect, since he is so unassuming as Danny, but very charming. He first seems just like a charming young man nothing exactly wrong with him, well almost. Montgomery in even these early scenes does offer an incredibly small, almost unnoticeable sight of something else deeper inside him. This is very difficult to do, since he could have shown too much of Danny early on or too little, but Montgomery shows just the right amount.

As Danny moves along and it reveals more about him, he really is excellent. He shows how Danny actually is always constantly acting. That his charming smile, and everything about him is really just a facade that is false. Montgomery shows his falseness correctly, but it properly disconcerting though because he does seem authentic despite always lying. His strength of his performance though really lies in when he specifically changes from the fake happy and charming Danny, to in secret the psychotic Danny. I also like how whenever he mixes the two at once reacting to the more suspicious Olivia (Rosalind Russell), such as when he catches her and others going through his luggage. His reaction is perfect and shows Montgomery brilliance because he at first reacts with his charming way, but still shows carefully and subtlety his actually hatred from what they have done. Another aspect of the film that is not perfect is the fact that Olivia in a way becomes attracted to Danny despite her knowing quite well that he is not on the level. The film does not write this part of the film perfectly but Montgomery plays it well and almost makes it work. He makes Danny properly alluring and exciting in his dark scenes. Although still clearly a psychopath, he still shows that Danny always charming in his disturbing way.

Danny at the very end of the film, has some especially strong scenes that really exemplify the strengths of his performance. First his murder scene with Dame May Whitty is truly darkly effective, and incredibly disturbing because he shows his lighter fake side for awhile. He plays around with her and singing quietly her to sleep, but than Montgomery shows Danny true ways and is perfectly frightening. Than after being confronted by Olivia, Montgomery is completely and utterly chilling, in his final scene as he tells her that he is going to kill her, but still stays charming well he does this. A truly darkly chilling achievement for Montgomery, that also helps in the full circle of the character at the very end. He gets caught and attempts to charm one more time, but than the pathetic side of Danny comes just as Naturally by Montgomery. Than finally his last moment when he stares into his mirror finally seeing his true self to himself, is truly an amazing end to a very strong performance.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Best Actor 1937: Spencer Tracy in Captain Couragoeus

Spencer Tract won his first Oscar from his second Oscar nomination for portraying Manuel Fidello a fisherman in Captain Courageous.

Captain Courageous I actually liked for the most part, I felt it was simply but well told story of a spoiled boy Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew) who learns what it really means to be a  man when he lives on a fisher boat for  awhile do following off a luxury liner.

Spencer Tracy is not actually the lead in Captain Courageous Freddie  Bartholomew is as Harvey. He is most certainly supporting. There is nothing all that special about this supporting performance. I will say the character of Manuel does have a heartwarming quality that note even a bad performance can mess up.

That is the only thing I can say that is positive about Tracy's simple and very poor performance. He never for a second is believable as the fisherman even less so than in the Old Man and the Sea, I suppose fishermen were not his forte. His accent he tries is strange, and incredibly inconsistent. A performance really is has a problem when the actor can not even keep a bad accent straight. Manuel dialogue is a tough sell I will say, and Tracy naturally is unable to sell it. He certainly smiles a lot, but so what there is nothing special about that.

There is never anything special about his performance at all. Whenever he tries something more with Manuel, or is required to do more he fails. This certainly just is not a high point for Tracy, after all even Tracy though lowly of it, well before people told him he was good, and won an award for it. This simply is not a good performance, almost everyone acted better than him in this movie, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, even Mickey Rooney.

Best Actor 1937

And the Nominees Were:

Fredric March in A Star Was Born

Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola

Spencer Tracy in Captain Courageous 

Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall

Charles Boyer in Conquest

Who do you pick, and predict? The drunken actor, Emile Zola, the guy who looks like he is drunk, the man who has more than smoking on his mind, or Napoleon Bonaparte.

Best Actor 1996: Results

5. Woody Harrelson in The People vs Larry Flynt- Harrelson is absolutely nothing special, and very standard for the first half of his performance but then the second half when he starts trying to imitate Flynt he is terrible.
4. Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade- I understand the point and the use of the character but this type of performance does not usually equal great acting to me. Also I never fully believed his character either which does not help a performance like this.

3. Geoffrey Rush in Shine- Rush I think does his mannerisms just fine and are close enough to the real deal, but still his performance never can really be amazing. He does succeed a little when he has the chance to show more but he also fails in his last scene.

2. Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient- I think there is something lacking in his character that holds him back, and I feel he was possibly trying too much at the beginning. Still though he succeeds well with the various aspects of the character. He shows the Count's romance, his struggles, and his end very well.

1. Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire- I was tempted to go with Fiennes but I felt Cruise's performance was technically a little better despite his lighter material. First he uses his star quality and charisma perfectly well in his performance here, but at the same time he still develops his character along with his usual charm. The changes of the character which are abrupt are handled well, and the notable scene of the film I feel are really notable because Cruise handles them as well as he does.

Best Actor 1996: Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient

Ralph Fiennes received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Count Laszlo De Almasy in The English Patient.

The English Patient is usually a fairly divisive film that is usually either loved or hated. I found it in general to be pretty boring.

Ralph Fiennes' performance I would say is part of this something that is missing. Not that it is a bad performance at all, but I felt there was something missing in the character of Laszlo. There is a motivation a history, that I felt was sorely needed to fully realize the character. This is not Fiennes' fault though it really is in the film itself,  I suppose I could say he does not show this part of the character I am looking for but it really is not written there.I know his character is suppose to be something of a mystery bit I still felt there was something lacking there.

Besides that though there is something very interesting about his performance, is that you can see two incredibly different performances at the same time. His severely injured and disfigured English Patient, and his romantic lead performance. The first romantic lead performance, is a good one although I do think he tried to be the dark secretly truly romantic man at the beginning. Although I find he tried it, I would say despite clearly trying he did in fact eventually succeed to be just that so the although I felt he might of been slightly obvious in his portrayal he did succeed with the portrayal. After all he is described as always thinking, and he certainly portrays that perfectly. He was suppose to be mysterious with his hidden romantic abilites, and Fiennes showed that too.

His performance though becomes better as he becomes less mysterious. I think his scene with Kristen Scott Thomas, are properly romantic in their particular way. They do not overplay or underplay the scenes, and do find the right tone for them to succeed well. I do like how a slightly warmer personality of the Count is well shown when he is with her opposed to when he is not. He reveals more about these scenes well and very naturally, since he finally seems to be able to easily talk with someone he truly connects with. His strongest scenes involving this part of his performance though are the last scenes with Kristen Scott Thomas. He is very strong in showing the Count unbearable sadness in his loss, he is equally strong when he tries to get help and does not find any. His mix of frustration and sadness as he pleads for help is brilliantly shown by Fiennes.

Fiennes though also has the scenes as the "English" patient, and he does not leave the whole performance up to his make up. He shows the Count's final depressions and thoughts well. Despite how much he is made up he still gives a poignant performance in these end scenes. Especially when he describes his final moments, where both part of his performance compliment each other incredibly well. His final scene as he describes his final actions, in the past, his final death, and how he has already felt dead is properly portrayed by Fiennes and does fine the right strength for this final scene. Although not a perfect performance since it lacks a little here and there, and sort of keeps me at a distance but still a good one.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Best Actor 1996: Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire

Tom Cruise received his second Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in Jerry Maguire.

I did not hate Jerry Maguire, nor did I exactly like it all that much, I guess I could say it was just okay.

Tom Cruise is an actor that I do not always like all that much, sometimes he can just plainly be annoying, or seem not to have what it takes with for a role. I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that I did not respond to his performance in Jerry Maguire as I thought I would. I am surprised to say that this star performance of his actually works for me fairly well.

One reason for this is because he actually uses his own charisma, but also does develop a character along with it. Not that Jerry Maguire is the most complicated character ever but Cruise still takes the time to make him one opposed to just simply being Tom Cruise. Although most of the development is in the first ten minute or so, Cruise still does a good job of it. First being the artificial and cocky jerk, but again learning his morality again. This change is fast and very hasty, but I will say Cruise handles it very well, and makes the transition an actually believable transition despite the suddenness of it. 

Also I must say his charisma is much more apparent here than I feel it is in many performances. His star quality does actually shine through in this performance, and he is always a watchable presence throughout this film. He gives simply a very strong leading performance. He is entertaining, interesting to watch and very charming in this film. Despite the sometimes hokey in the romantic scenes with Renee Zellweger, they still work very well together, and Cruise is very strong in these scenes. Although the scenes is constantly mocked now their big end scene is incredibly well played by Cruise. Not an extremely heavy performance, or complicated one but a good one from Cruise showing his true abilities as a star.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Best Actor 1996: Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade

Billy Bob Thornton received his first acting Oscar nomination for portraying Karl Childers in Sling Blade.

Sling Blade is a fine southern drama, although probably a bit long.

Thornton's performance he is incredibly similar to Geoffrey Rush's in Shine. There performance basically is finding the right note, and mannerisms and then keeping with them throughout the film. Thornton like Rush sets his mannerisms up for the first moment than continues with them for the rest of the film, his character never changes his mannerisms or the way he acts and reacts, even if the character does change throughout the film. I never fully believed his mannerisms to tell you the truth, I always thought that I really saw him acting. Not that he is terrible but I just felt that his performance felt a little forced at times. I just simply never fully believed him as this man.

I would say though that he is still okay, and tries to do his best to add meaning to his own script with his performance. But I think a flaw was that Childers keeps his mannerisms, and very simple way of reacting to everything was a bit of a problem. I mean that is the point of the character, but it does not give Thornton much movement. He just keeps with his mannerisms and sticks with them. I simply I never even impressed overly much with performance like these even when they are not flawed. But this one never seemed really truly authentic. Also Thornton's whole performance is more of something well thought out as a device for the film. Childers simplistic actions and reactions at times, were purposely written that way by Thornton, and he understood how to use his own performance. Even though if he been just a little more believable for me personally he still would not have given an amazing performance but rather a suitable one. 

Best Actor 1996: Geoffrey Rush in Shine

Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Schizophrenic Pianist David Helfgott.

Shine is a problematic Biography picture. It has some good moments, but it also has some serious problems. Also I must say to see the actual story of Helfgott filmed would be rather different.

Rush actually is not in the film all that much a very good portion of it focuses on the two actors playing the youngest, and younger Helfgott. It only shows briefly at the beginning, but eventually catches up with him again at the very end. This is an "acting" performance most certainly. It is all about mannerisms, and voice to show Helfgott's schizophrenia. Rush does a fine job showing the schizophrenia it is fairly realistic. I compared him to the real Helfgott, and I must say that he was pretty close to the real thing. He was not exact, but he was pretty close.

He does a good job since he is realistic without being over the top. The only problem I have with performance like these, is the actor just finds the right mannerisms, and tone but then call it a day. Which makes sense since most people with mental conditions do not really change in normal situations. Rush most of the time just keep doing the same mannerisms over and over again which are correct and he does it well. It is completely correct for the character, and for the film too, therefore I do not have a problem that he does this. Also when he does have a few chances to show a little more like his scene where he meets his father, or his reaction at the end of his comeback concert. Both scenes are very well handled and are made effective by Rush. But on the other coin his final scene he makes his mannerism sort of go away kind of oddly briefly, which is feels very false and the worst moment in his performance. Still overall he gives a good performance in a limited type of performance and tries to add more when he has the chance.

Best Actor 1996: Woody Harrelson in The People Vs Larry Flynt

Woody Harrelson received his first Oscar nomination for portraying pornographer Larry Flynt in The People vs Larry Flynt.

This film is not particularly good, because like many of these issues films made today it refuses to critically look at its own subject, and then it makes the opposition basically cartoonish charactertures.

Woody Harrelson for the first half of the film gives a fairly standard performance as Flynt. He does not do any of his Harrelson obnoxiousness as in some of his performances, but there is simply nothing all that special of his portrayal. He shows Flynt as a pornographer and he plays him as you would expect him to in a film that romanticizes the pornographer a bit. He is not bad at all, just his performance is rather standard throughout the first half, being quick to make money, enjoy his business, act sleazy, and act annoyed by those who wish to censor him. Not a single facet of his performance in those qualities is bad, and usual is appropriate enough for the character. Still though he does not excel in any parts to any amazing degree.

The second half of his performance on the other hand is a different story. He almost out of the blue starts giving an insanely mannered performance. Now he tries to imitate Flynt, and his mannerisms, and it just rings false. The change is not well handled at all, because it is not lead to nor does he immediately do this after becoming crippled in an assassination attempt. This is both the fault of the film, and of Harrelson's performance. As the crippled Flynt he is just over the top and I did not believe him for a second. He just went way over board and never seemed realistically so. I think his performance became outstandingly bad since he was so off, and because this style of performance came out of nowhere. I suppose he has one good scene when Courtney Love's character dies, but that is it, and even that is not that good. He is not special at first but then very bad for the rest.